Government must do more to close green skills gap, warns industry

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A group of construction industry leaders have urged the government to do more to close the green skills gap to achieve 2050 net-zero carbon goals

In a letter to chancellor Rishi Sunak, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has warned that policies are required to address the 750,000 construction workers that are on the verge of retirement over the next 15 years.

The letter, co-signed by representatives from more than a dozen major construction organisations, has called for increased funding and further education.

The recommendations also ask the government to legislate to improve pay and conditions for construction workers, to make careers more attractive to job seekers, and create a new National Infrastructure and Construction Skills Demand pipeline.

The letter has been signed by the likes of the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), Morgan Sindall, Tideway, Mace and Barhale.

‘We cannot build back better without builders’

IPPR construction sector lead, Oscar Watkins, commented: “We cannot build back better without the builders.

“As this letter from industry leaders and organisations demonstrates, the construction sector wants to be at the heart of the UK’s drive to net-zero emissions and a low carbon economy but recognises it does not yet have the skills it will need to do this.

“The government’s procurement system also needs to be made more adept at recognising and meeting skills needs.

“It is essential that the construction sector has a pipeline of skilled and motivated people coming through the system into the sector to make the green transition possible.”

Adam Strudwick, principal, Perkins&Willl, commented: ”While the figures released by the IPPR are a worrying indication of a green skills gap, the drive towards net-zero in construction and retrofitting buildings should offer an opportunity to reimagine existing jobs and skills in a greener way, which will be pivotal to reaching sustainability targets.

“Focussing on offsite construction is one way in which to reinvigorate and enhance traditional construction methods and jobs whilst elevating sustainability credentials.

“Offsite construction also enhances traditional jobs whilst improving quality, speed of delivery, waste reduction, circular design principles, health and safety and the wellbeing of workers

“The labour-intensive retrofit of energy-efficiency measures in buildings such as installing solar panels and fitting sensors are just a few examples of green skills which will be vital and require skilled workers.”

Andrew Shepherd, managing director at TopHat, added: “It is vital that we look at new ways of engaging a wider and more diverse workforce to the construction industry, in order to address skills shortages and meet net-zero targets.

“Offsite manufacturing, where homes are precision-engineered along production lines in a factory, has a huge role to play in creating green skills and can be more appealing to younger workers than traditional construction. By manufacturing offsite, we’re able to reduce emissions produced during construction by around half when compared to traditional methods. Innovative technologies also mean work can often be less physically demanding, while working in factories means employees don’t need to worry about unpleasant weather conditions.

“And unlike traditional construction, offsite manufacturing offers companies, such as ourselves, have the ability to provide our employees with transferable skills that will help them in other manufacturing arenas. Working along production lines means our teams are learning how to operate complex machinery and utilise the latest digital technologies.

“These skills are transferable to other sectors, such as car and aerospace manufacturing, meaning the sector is providing the economy with the skills needed to grow.”

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